Jury says Baker competent to stand trial

A Fresno County Superior Court jury has found Harry Baker, 87, competent to stand trial for committing lewd acts with a minor, more than seven years after the alleged incident took place.

The proceedings have been delayed numerous times, due to Baker’s health, since his arrest on Oct. 9, 2009. He remains in the Fresno County Jail after Fresno County Superior Court Judge Jonathan Conklin sent him there after not keeping ordered appointments with two psychologists, and two court dates.

On Jan. 8, prosecuting attorney Becky Gong, and defensive attorney Roger Nuttall, will come before Conklin, to decide on a trial date.

After the proceedings, Nuttall said he might ask a judge to throw out the verdict because all the experts said he (Baker) has a mild cognitive disorder that affects his ability to remember things. The law says a person must be competent to assist in his/her defense, and Nuttall contends that his client suffers from dementia and other ailments that prevent Baker from assisting him.

According to a Dec. 18 Fresno Bee story, Baker was examined by psychologists Allan Hedberg, and Paula Willis, who told the jury Baker is not competent to stand trail, while psychologist Harold Seymour, and psychiatrist Howard Terrel contend he is competent.

After his arrest, Baker said he is not guilty, and was the victim of a blackmail and extortion plan after the 13-year-old victim secretly videotaped him in a Fresno hotel, and was tricked into touching her. Baker has stated he paid $250,000 to family members to keep the tape from being released to the public. His attorney has called the family a “band of gypsies.”

Baker knew the girl’s parents, Tillie Steve and Michael Frank. Early in the case, Steve and Frank were being investigated for child exploitation, child pornography, and extortion, but charges were never filed.

If convicted on the lewd acts charge, Baker could spend up to eight years in prison.

- Staff report